Shared Presence – first investigations

12 July 2011

To initially investigate the idea detailed earlier and more specifically the Upstairs project, we did a couple of things. The first thing we tried was attaching a contact microphone to the floor of TAI Studio and seeing what we’d get. The result was pretty sobering: you’d get a great walking sound but only to a radius of about 40 cm – a bit more with loud shoes.

Next we tried a nearby hall with a wooden floor. The results were worlds apart. The wooden boards conducted the sound practically over their entire length and where time hadn’t separated them too much conductance was also very good between the boards. We did a stereo setup, too, and it was pretty straightforward to hear people walking around.

Wooden floor microphone close-up

Wooden hallway

setting up the audio hardware

Test recordings for the shared environments project by LFSaw

It was a bitter pill to swallow realizing that our idea simply wouldn’t work on any floor. To build a setup that would have commonly used flooring that still yields good results, we went to the nearest home improvement store and bought a couple of square meters of laminate, which had the added benefit that it was easily set up at different places. The result was even better than it was on the other wooden floor.

Laying out the laminate flooring in the TAI Studio

Testing a chair on the newly laid laminate

Setting up the camera and discussing the next take

To share presence between two locations we disassembled half the laminate flooring and relaid it in another part of the studio, divided by thick cloth that we had used before to lay the laminate more easily and that gave footsteps an interesting crunchy sound while lying under the laminate. You could even hear sneaking and it sounded quite recognizable, too.